Autonomous Microtransit In The Atomic City

Autonomous, wheelchair-accessible, hybrid microtransit vehicles may solve our transportation issues. Source:


Los Alamos is suffering from several current and impending transportation problems. Both our public transit and school systems have driver shortages. No shuttles will be taking people to and from Skiesta this year. Some people are worried about more people moving into Los Alamos because it will cause more parking and traffic issues. A great public transit system would alleviate that. One solution that wasn’t discussed in the presentation at last night’s Council meeting or the transit study at last October’s Transportation Board meeting is autonomous microtransit. Microtransit lives between fixed route transit like buses and on-demand services like taxis. It uses real-time optimization and other state-of-the-art technologies to increase accessibility and safety and lower costs and pollution.

There are a variety of autonomous vehicles including wheelchair-accessible hybrid minivans. Despite fears about AVs, they are actually more reliable than humans. They are never distracted and use sensors like radar, lidar, ultrasonic, GPS, vehicle telemetry, and predictive analytics to see and respond to the environment with superhuman ability. As evidence of their safety, May Mobility has provided over 320,000 autonomous public transit rides without incident across the U.S. and Japan. (Here’s some other AV trivia that may change your mind.)

Vendors like Via handle the customer-facing side of the solution. They build the mobile apps customers use to request rides and provide customer analytics to inform public planners. The entire solution is supported by vendors, so our community would be up and running quickly, and the government could focus on bigger issues than hiring drivers and maintaining buses. Adoption is growing even in unexpected places. Arlington, TX never had a mass transit system, but now has over 80 microtransit shuttles in operation. Grand Rapids, MN launched the first ADA-compliant system in 2022. Despite some kinks like interfering with emergency responders, this emerging technology supports our strategic goals and Los Alamos could benefit immensely from it. If you agree, let Council, Public Works Director Juan Rael, and Atomic City Transit Manager James Barela know.